• Christine Mann

Persuade or Acquiesce?

I have a woman in my practice who has been a patient for more than a decade, and who can be described as a Tea Party patriot. She is in her 70's, white, and religious. She hugs me and tells me that loves me, and that she prays for me every time she comes in for a visit.

About a year ago, she called the office, quite distraught, and said that she would have to leave my practice. She told my assistant that if we kept insisting on taking and recording her blood pressure, she would no longer come to see me. When my assistant asked why, she stated that she had heard that the government was gathering patient's blood pressure measurements and putting them into a data base. She had also heard that the government was forcing doctors to deny care to patients over the age of 75, and making us just let these patients die.

With a bit of persuasion, I was able to get her to come in and talk to me in person. I listened to her concerns, then I assured her that neither thing was true. I promised her that if the government ever tried to force doctors to withhold treatment to older patients, I'd be the first to let her know and I'd be right beside her fighting for her all the way. And I definitely wouldn't feed private patient data to the government. She is still my patient.

This type of scenario has played itself out thousands of times over my 18 years practicing medicine. It is a part of my daily job to persuade people to do things they don't want to do. I frequently encounter patients who "read on the internet" about a medication or symptom, and I spend time countering false information, reassuring frightened patients, and persuading reluctant people to follow my instructions.

At no time do I acquiesce to misinformation. I always try to persuade.

I bring this up as a metaphor for a discussion going on in Democratic political circles. Should we give ground on our values and acquiesce to misinformation? Should we cater to those who have let fear color their perceptions?

I firmly believe that the answer is no.


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